Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin Reuters
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks to reporters at a storage area containing supplies for shelters run by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian charity group, in Cabaret Dec. 12, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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United States Jewish leaders condemned Wednesday Sarah Palin's statement comparing the accusations against her in the wake of the shooting attack on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to blood libel, a centuries-old claim that Jews use the blood of Christian children in religious rites.

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President and CEO David A. Harris said in a statement. "Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today."

"This [blood libel] is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries -- and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today", Harris added.

President of Jewish Funds for Justice Simon Greer said in a statement that "the term 'blood libel' is not a synonym for 'false accusation.' It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out-of-line."

"In the past two months, Ms. Palin and Glenn Beck, the most well-known media personalities on Fox News, have abused two of the most tragic episode in the history of the Jewish people: the Holocaust and the blood libel," Greer said, adding "in addition, Roger Ailes, the head of the Fox News channel, referred to the executives at NPR as 'Nazis.' Perhaps the popular news channel has such an ingrained victim mentality that it identifies with one of the most persecuted minorities in human history. But the Jewish community does not appreciate their identification, which only serves to denigrate the very real pain so many Jews have suffered because of anti-Semitic violence. It is clear that Fox News has a Jewish problem."

"But it is worth pointing out that it was Rep. Giffords herself who first objected to Ms. Palin’s map showing her district in the crosshairs," Greer said

 J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, also responding to Palin's comment, said he hoped "Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term 'blood libel' brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds."

"When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words," Ben-Ami said.‬

Giffords, who is Jewish, is in critical condition after she was shot in the head during an attack in Tucson, Arizona last week. Six other people were killed by suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner, 22.

In the wake of the attack, Palin has come under criticism for her aggressive political style, including setting up a website called "Take Back the 20," which included a map of the United States with cross hairs on congressional districts of Democratic candidates she had singled out for defeat.

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement that "Palin has every right to defend herself against these kinds of attacks, and we agree with her that the best tradition in America is one of finding common ground despite our differences."

"In response to this tragedy we need to rise above partisanship, incivility, heated rhetoric, and the business-as-usual approaches that are corroding our political system and tainting the atmosphere in Washington and across the country," Foxman said, adding "still, we wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase 'blood-libel' in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term 'blood-libel' has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."